For a few seconds, the sky over Portland, Maine, lit up as a giant fireball crashed through Earth’s atmosphere — and it was caught on video.
Dashcam video from the Portland Police Department captured the fireball’s brief but impressive flight early Tuesday morning.
According to the American Meteor Society, such events are extremely common, but extremely rare to behold.
The society’s operations manager, Mike Hankey, says fireballs (and yes, that’s the correct astronomical term) happen pretty regularly when debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere and creates friction and heat.
“Debris from space hits Earth all the time,” Hankey told CNN. “The bigger the debris, the bigger the flash of light.”
He says that based on the video, the debris — most likely a piece of an asteroid — was about the size of a car.
The society received numerous witness reports of a sonic boom along with the flame show, which, according to Hankey, means the fireball penetrated deep into our atmosphere and most likely produced harmless meteorites that fell to Earth.
If you saw it in person, you should count your lucky stars.
“These are totally harmless events and they happen every day on the planet,” Hankey said. “But for an individual to see something like this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing — just the odds of you being the in the right place at the right time.”